You are here

Diplomacy & Defense Think Tank News

Les dernières conférences de membres du RMES

RMES - Tue, 21/04/2015 - 04:14
Joseph Henrotin, « La coopération multilatérale au sein de la PSDC », séminaire PSDC, Ecoles d’officiers de l’armée de l’Air, Salon de Provence, 7 avril 2015. Joseph Henrotin, « Le rôle de l’OTAN dans la crise ukrainienne », séminaire PSDC, Ecoles d’officiers de l’armée de l’Air, Salon de Provence, 7 avril 2015. Joseph Henrotin, « Are there a difference between an alliance […]


IHEDN - Mon, 20/04/2015 - 12:55

François Bayrou, maire de Pau, a reçu la 200e session en région de l’IHEDN ce vendredi 17 avril...

en lire plus

2015 New York Seminar: The Future Role of Peacekeeping Operations

European Peace Institute / News - Fri, 17/04/2015 - 21:04

jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery("#isloaderfor-upqedh").fadeOut(2000, function () { jQuery(".pagwrap-upqedh").fadeIn(1000);});});

On Friday, April 17, IPI hosted the 2015 edition of the New York Seminar on the topic of “The Future Role of Peacekeeping Operations.” This year’s edition, co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Austria and Italy to the United Nations, gathered experts, diplomats, and representatives from international organizations and civil society for an in-depth and forward-looking discussion of the role that peacekeeping operations can play in maintaining international peace and security. The seminar was held under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution, with the exception of the keynote address delivered by Izumi Nakamitsu, assistant administrator and director of the Crisis Response Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In her opening remarks, Ms. Nakamitsu, who between 2008 and 2014 held various posts at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, stressed the importance of devising new conflict analysis tools, especially given the changing nature of conflicts and the emergence of new threats. Achieving political solutions to crises has become more difficult, Ms. Nakamitsu said, which means that prevention should be at the forefront of international peacekeeping efforts.

The discussion also highlighted the challenges posed by the emergence and growth of extremist groups. These non-state actors are now seizing and controlling territory, purporting to provide public services, and using social media tools to spread their violent ideologies. Their actions often fuel sectarian divisions, which in turn complicate the settlement of crises.

According to the panelists, Yemen exemplifies this new trend. There, all the elements of this new conflict environment converge, including a weak state apparatus, widespread poverty, regional involvement, and competition over scarce natural resources.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ efforts to keep up with the evolving situation were recognized in missions such as the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Intelligence and Fusion Cell in Mali, as well as the first-ever UN emergency health mission (UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response—UNMEER) and the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN (OPCW-UN) in Syria.

New and enhanced partnerships stand out as the norm in peacekeeping today. The UN is actively building on the cooperative advantage of regional partners such as the African Union and the European Union. But there are inherent risks and challenges in these partnerships. For example, when the region is leading the mediation process alongside a UN peacekeeping mission or vice versa, how can the organizations work together and use one process to leverage progress in the other?

The discussion also addressed the topic of women’s involvement in peace processes. Women’s absence from such processes, one of the panelists emphasized, is directly linked to the recurrence of violent conflict. Fifteen years after the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, there is still a lot of work to be done—including by peacekeeping missions—when it comes to ensuring that women are included in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. By actively including women, peace efforts can become broader and extend to all sectors of society, making relapse into violence less likely.

Finally, the seminar also discussed how UN mediation and conflict prevention capabilities can be strengthened in order to offer viable alternatives to military responses to crises.

Download the Meeting Brief

Kirgisistan: „Insel der Demokratie“

Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung - Fri, 17/04/2015 - 10:58
Trotz einer prekären wirtschaftlichen Lage mit einem jährlichen Wachstum von lediglich drei bis vier Prozent, einer hohen landesweiten Armutsrate von 37 Prozent, einer instabilen Drei-Parteien-Koalition an der Regierung und Nachbarländern, in denen totalitär regierende Präsidenten dominieren, funktioniert Demokratie in Kirgisistan. Es gibt Meinungsfreiheit ohne Einschränkungen und die Zivilgesellschaft ist äußerst aktiv. Langfristig wird das kirgisische Demokratiemodell dann eine Chance haben, wenn die sozioökonomischen Probleme der Bürger gelöst werden können.

RDV à 12h sur Public Sénat

Institut Montaigne - Fri, 17/04/2015 - 10:24
Date: Dimanche 21 Février 2016Résumé: Françoise Sivignon, présidente de Médecins du monde, sera l’invitée de "Générations d’idées".

Brauchen wir ein Einwanderungsgesetz? – Zehn Jahre Zuwanderungsgesetz

Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung - Wed, 15/04/2015 - 15:51
Vor zehn Jahren wurde Zuwanderung und Integration in Deutschland erstmals in einem Gesetz geregelt. Nach langwierigen politischen Verhandlungen trat am 1. Januar 2005 das „Gesetz zur Steuerung und Begrenzung der Zuwanderung und zur Regelung des Aufenthalts und der Integration von Unionsbürgern und Ausländern“ (Zuwanderungsgesetz) in Kraft. Ab 2007 folgten weitere Ergänzungen. So wurden relevante EU-Richtlinien, wie die Dublin-II-Verordnung, die Qualifikationsrichtlinie, die Forscherrichtlinie und die Richtlinie zur Blue Card umgesetzt.

"Predisposed Tabula Rasa" Op-Ed by Nayef Al-Rodhan

GCSP (Publications) - Mon, 13/04/2015 - 12:11

This article originally appeared on Journal of Public Policy Blog.


Studies of human behavior and psychology have received extensive attention in public policy. Economists, social theorists and philosophers have long analyzed the incentives of human actions, decision making, rationality, motivation, and other cognitive processes. More recently,  the study of happiness  furthered the debate in public policy, as many governments brought up the necessity for new measures of social progress. The discussion was bolstered when the UN passed a critical  resolution  in July 2011 inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people as a tool to help guide public policies. It was also hoped that discussions about happiness would serve to refine the wider debate about the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030 and the standards for measuring and understanding well-being.  The World Happiness Report , a recent initiative, attempts to analyze and rate happiness as an indicator to track social progress.

These recent initiatives serve as reminders that sound public policies must evolve in strong connection with an understanding of human psychology, emotions and the sources of happiness and satisfaction. Nevertheless, there are further invaluable insights from neuroscience that have remained less explored. Contemporary neuroscientific research and an understanding of the predispositions of our neurochemistry challenge classical thought on human nature and inform us of fundamental elements that must accompany good governance.

Nature and Nurture

Are we intrinsically good or bad? Are we born with innate morality or with a blank slate? The question of the original endowments of human beings has intrigued philosophers since at least Plato’s day. The  notion of  anamnesis , or recollection, is foregrounded in several of the  Dialogues , and serves as a kind of digression in a number of others. The notion of innate ideas was subsequently popularized in Western philosophy and reemerged with thinkers as influential as Descartes.

At the other side of the spectrum, John Locke came to be known as the most ardent critic of these concepts, believing that there was no evidence for innate ideas whatsoever. Instead, he advocated a  tabula rasa , or blank slate, image of the mind. The Lockean challenge to innate ideas represented a healthy exercise of philosophical parsimony and an important step forward but, at the same time, it led to another dichotomy between innate and acquired aspects of human nature more generally.

This debate, however, missed some crucial insights. While Locke was right to eschew particular innate ideas, his lack of familiarity with evolutionary theory and neurosciences prevented him from grasping aspects of human nature that are inherited and universal and grounded in  our shared neurochemistry .

Famously, Locke discredited innate ideas by arguing that logical and mathematical truths, which make the best candidates for innate ideas, are by no means universally accepted. If such ideas were innate, there should be no obstacle to all human beings  recognizing their truth  immediately. Though he mostly confines his discussion to “children and idiots,” similar themes have been expressed by those who advocate concepts and paradigms of cultural relativity.

Moral notions, in particular—which in contemporary times have been demonstrated to vary significantly from one culture to another—stand as evidence against the innateness of ideas. More generally, Locke intended to prove that there was no principled way to distinguish between innate ideas and those acquired through the process of reasoning (induction or deduction). Since the means to make such a distinction were missing, the defender of innate ideas will have to demonstrate that certain ideas could not have been acquired by reason.

Modern neurological studies have bolstered Locke’s position, proving the plasticity of the brain and hence its susceptibility to influence. What Locke could not appreciate, however, was that the same neurochemistry that allows significant flexibility and makes human beings malleable to their environment also predisposes them in certain basic ways. Our neurochemistry is our lowest common denominator, and this brings a nuanced counterargument to Locke with an appeal to the universality of emotions: because emotions are neurochemically mediated, they are present across cultures as part of our genetic inheritance. This surely does not suggest that  specific  ideas are universal, too; in that regard, Locke’s thesis remains largely intact.

Contemporary neuroscience does, however, point to an element of human nature that is naturally inherited, overturning the theory of a pure  tabula rasa  or any theory that resorts to explanations of nurture entirely to explain human nature. Moreover, more recent evidence of “ genetic memory ” also demonstrates the presence of readily inherited intuitions that we possess upon birth. The theory of our inborn “ numerosity ” explored by neuropsychologist Brian Butterworth further proves how numerical attributes are encoded in the human genome from our ancestors. Therefore, while distinct notions of right or wrong are largely absent from our genetic endowment, mounting evidence in neurosciences shows that some minimal inborn attributes do exist, and the most common and fundamental manifestation of these is the goal of survival.

Predispositions and Dispositions

Our basic suite of emotions is oriented towards our survival and typically functions at a subconscious level, preempting our idiosyncratic cultural conditioning. At the very minimum, human beings are equipped with a set of basic instincts coded by our genetics , which inevitably and repeatedly guide us toward actions that will ensure our survival (or that we calculate as most beneficial for survival at a specific time).

Emotions have increasingly been studied as important in our decision-making processes and in our construction of principles. Importantly, these emotions are not entirely deterministic with regard to behavior. Rather, the complexity of human behavior results from the interplay between general inherited instincts and factors contingent on our individual existences in certain sociocultural settings.  This is a central insight in my theory of a predisposed  tabula rasa : our nature is highly malleable and readily “written upon” by experience, but it is also and most powerfully predisposed toward self-preservation. Emotions are at the core of this predisposition. This means that there is a certain fundamental emotional commonality in the predisposition with which we begin our lives.

At the same time, the malleability of our nature ensures that our dispositions will also be profoundly influenced by familial, social, and cultural exposure.  This understanding has immediate political implications: given that human beings significantly become what they are as a  consequence of their environment and their social contexts , creating conditions of good governance, support and fairness is critical.  As I have written before, human beings are not born intrinsically good or bad but rather amoral: their moral compasses will vary and shift (to a large extent) in response to external conditions. In the same vein, the emotions that form part of our inheritance can be appealed for both good and ill throughout the course of our lives. The demagogue who would rally people toward violence or radical social destabilization is counting precisely on such emotional instincts to override rational thinking. Being cognizant of such vulnerabilities should make us both more vigilant against those who would use our emotional responses and more sympathetic to those acting predominately and unknowingly out of fear.

Emotionality, Rationality, and Morality

The longstanding dichotomy between innate ideas and a blank slate parallels a related dichotomy between emotions and rationality. From what has already been hinted above, this dichotomy often leads to a distortion and oversimplification of emotions and their role. But, as we acquire a more nuanced appreciation of an inherited set of  emotions  as neurochemistrically mediated and material and instinct-oriented, it becomes clear that the strict division between emotions and rationality  is equally misleading. This is in part because even “basic” emotions—long maligned as obstacles to clear rational thought—have more recently been  demonstrated  to be significantly inferential. Emotions need to be recognized as significant guides to our behavior, and this is also valid for those minimal emotions associated with survival.

The role conventionally given to rationality, on the other hand, has frequently been overestimated both in terms of its ubiquity and power. A strong tradition to glorify rationality has almost vilified anything pertaining to emotions as something precarious and menacing. Nevertheless, once emotions and their neurochemical underpinning are reevaluated properly a new picture emerges. Emotions have been our constant companions and, as evidenced by scientific research, rational reasoning is in fact less common than usually assumed. Many of our  cognitive biases  remain controversial, and modern psychology still has limited means to unlock all the unknowns of our brain. However, it is clear that emotions are critical, and the priority of emotions to reason in typical decision-making is increasingly considered a commonplace of psychology.

The theory of predisposed  tabula rasa  accommodates these results while providing grounds to understand morality as a higher reflective achievement, not inherent to our nature, and in clear correlation to the highly specific circumstances in which the individual lives. As already suggested, our common emotional background is best understood as amoral and capable of being developed for positive ends or manipulated for negative ones. We can thus arrive at a theory of human nature that both explains our inherited aspects in terms of natural selection and leaves sufficient scope for the agency of human beings to develop in relation to their circumstances.

Considering all these insights is also critical for public policy. An understanding of our minimal predispositions provides a guide for ensuring the basic conditions under which humans are most likely to acquire the interest in social cooperation and morality. The understanding of human nature as a predisposed  tabula rasa informs us that survival is the most fundamental human instinct coded in our genetics and that, when imperiled, it is likely to trump everything else. Furthermore, the malleability of our neurochemistry is a powerful reminder that public policies must work towards preventing injustice, humiliation and insecurity, and more generally, any conditions that are likely to exacerbate our egoistic and survival-oriented behavior.



>> Back to GCSP Staff Publications

"The Security Implications and Existential Crossroads of Artificial Intelligence" Op-Ed by Nayef Al-Rodhan

GCSP (Publications) - Mon, 13/04/2015 - 10:25

This article originally appeared in Georgetown Journal of International Affairs Blog.


Emerging technologies and their possible implications for ethics, security, and even human existence have increasingly gained ground in the past two decades. Some innovations have resulted in obvious security and existential threats: a world with nuclear arms, for example. The potential of other technological shifts, however, has been more mixed. Biotechnologies, genetic engineering, and stems cells have given rise to controversial debates in which advocacy groups on both sides have convincingly put forward pros and cons. The Internet has revolutionized everything from markets to family communication in ways both beneficial and harmful. The age of artificial Intelligence (AI) has shown itself to be similarly Janus-like in its potential to alter our lives both positively and negatively. On the one hand, AI has demonstrated its usefulness in predictive speech and typing software, robotics, and unmanned aircraft technology. On the other, these and many other AI-enabled platforms raise profound concerns about oversight.

AI is also unique among emergent technologies because it can learn and evolve without human input. This fact alone demands a policy approach that recognizes not only the immediate implications of AI itself but also what might happen because of the potential range of resultant technologies. In short, AI poses challenges for security and policymaking not merely of magnitude but of precedent. Further, AI forces us to consider our relationship with technology in ways that were never previously relevant—including the possibility of entering into competition with, and even being superseded by, our own creations.

The advent of AI brings with it numerous implications for the futures of global security, conflicts, and human dignity. The extensive use of drones, both for military and commercial purposes, is a rightly controversial current debate. But the uses of AI in unmanned aircraft are mere glimmers of what is to come. In the later stages of the industrial revolution, industrialization in factories rendered some jobs previously performed by human beings obsolete. AI appears to portend the inevitable complete removal of human beings from combat scenarios in numerous military-strategic areas.

AI applications facilitate real-time adaptation to contingencies without requiring the presence of people on the ground. Unmanned drones, for instance, are used to provide continuous surveillance and small robots are deployed in missions to counter improvised explosive devices.  U.S. Army researchers  are now working to develop intelligent robots that can successfully navigate in different environments by following voice commands and instructions by a human. Furthermore, the  U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency  (DARPA) launched an AI program in 2013 to help integrate machine-learning capacity in a wide variety of military weapons. Other teams of scientists are now exploring ways to create robots with a moral compasses and in-built  senses of right or wrong  that have the ability to pick the ethical course of action on the battlefield.

Two immediate consequences of this transition to battlefield AI are especially noteworthy. The first reflects the relative ease of convincing the public or another decision-making body to engage in violent conflict in cases where the use of AI technology assures minimal human casualties. Given that President Obama’s  strategy  to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), for example, attempted to explicitly avoid committing further on-the-ground American troops, wars that do not involve risk of bodily harm to soldiers continue to be much easier sells to both the public and to government bodies. These assurances are potentially problematic not only because they tend to work against even the most circumspect evaluation of a war’s justness, but also because they encourage a point of view that underestimates the destabilizing effect of all military engagements, regardless of battlefield casualties. This point of view often overlooks warfare’s terrible track record of noncombatant casualties and harm to nonmilitary parties. The history of recorded warfare demonstrates that far more civilians than soldiers have died as a result of military engagements, a trend that has significantly worsened in the era of modern technology. This fact alone should evidence a need for additional reflection about the part AI will play in the future of warfare.

A related area of concern is the role of judgment regarding entry into and conduct during interstate conflict ( jus ad bellum and jus in bello ). Any AI machine expected to make decisions in war should pass some variation of the  Turing test , which was devised by British mathematician Alan Turing in 1950 to assess whether a particular machine exhibits intelligence equivalent to or beyond that of a human. But the worry is that a robotic soldier or a sufficiently sophisticated AI drone could easily pass a version of the Turing test and yet utterly fail to uphold  jus in bello ’s fundamental commitment to non-combatant immunity, or  jus ad bellum ’s supposed principal of non-aggression. Therefore, if AI is to play a role in military engagement, this potential must be closely monitored and constrained by international norms.

Second, as I have  previously argued , a heavy reliance on AI machines would create further inequalities in war because of the unequal availability of such technologies to certain countries. This will make the outcome of interstate conflict far more directly a matter of superior technology and which nations or peoples have the resources to attain it. This availability gap could serve to exacerbate and reinforce preexisting global inequalities. This could also conceivably result in asymmetric battlefield casualties where countries that have access to AI technology will suffer fewer human losses compared to those countries that do not. Other questions about AI’s use and application are relevant too. Could conscious machines be sensitive to human welfare? Could they replicate the human motivation to cooperate in order to avoid  the “state of nature ,” which Hobbes defined as a state of a perpetual war and lack of effective higher authority to arbitrate disputes? How can we expect robots to understand, relate to, and execute the basic norms of social cooperation and political order?

Beyond its potential military applications, the nature and use of AI should also be monitored and regulated in non-combat settings. AI has achieved an almost ubiquitous presence in our everyday lives in the machines and applications we use in the workplace, at home, and beyond. Learning software, like the popular “Swipe” texting key—an app that learns user’s tendency to use particular words and phrases and becomes predictive of what a user is trying to say or is about to say next—is an example of the sort of AI that is coming to play a significant role in everyday life. A similar technology, developed by Intel, is responsible for the speech-assistance software used by British physicist Stephen Hawking, whose degenerative ALS rendered him unable to speak unassisted by machinery in 1985. Nevertheless, while acknowledging the benefit he receives from AI, Hawking has vocalized concerns that complete AI could bring about  the end of the human race . With the capacity to learn and improve at near-limitless rates, full AIs would quickly become superior to human beings, constrained as we are by long and slow evolutionary processes.

While the dystopian vision of runaway or out-of-control AI still appears like something out of science fiction, today’s rate of technological innovation serves as a reminder that we may be headed in that direction. The collective of hackers and activists known as Anonymous has demonstrated the fearsome capacity of AI programs even at their current stage of development: at the outset of the Arab Spring in 2011, leading members of the group clogged the networks of Tunisia’s governing regime. Within 24 hours,  the websites  of the president, prime minister, and that of the Tunisian stock exchange had been brought down. Simple AI can learn to avoid spam filters, avoid fraud detection, and disguise itself as various different forms of online protocol. And these features are minimal compared to the more advanced capabilities to which AI might lead—the ability of a fully AI machine to make strategic decisions about which governments to isolate or which weapons systems to activate, for instance.

Regardless of how close to or far from the realization of such capabilities we are, the fact that the possibility exists in principle should motivate dialogue and careful control over the development of AI. Alongside environmental degradation and large-scale human rights violations, artificial intelligence represents yet another critical challenge that requires interstate collaboration and the shoring up of international law to preserve the safety and dignity of human beings in both our contemporary and future world.



>> Back to GCSP Staff Publications